In a thoroughly stunning reversal, House Republicans, who were taking a public beating for their steadfast refusal to pass a 2-month extension of the Bush payroll tax cuts, caved in to the public pressure and passed the bill by unanimous consent.
This was a mechanism where no one could go on the record opposing the bill. If there was one objection a roll call vote would be in order, and Republicans that oppose the tax cut would have to go on record.
And again, at the heart of the problem in getting this measure passed, we find the TEA Party: perennial opponents of anything that might just help this country pull itself out of a financial crisis. TEA Partiers have become the petulant children in congress who have just received a severe scolding from both sides of the aisle. President Obama summed it up nicely in his speech before a crowd of supporters yesterday:
“I mean, has this place become so dysfunctional that even when people agree to things, we can’t do it? It doesn’t make any sense”
Senate Leader Harry Reid was gloating, I think, when he added these words upon hearing the news that the House had passed the bill:
“I hope this Congress has had a very good learning experience, especially those who are newer to this body. Everything we do around here does not have to wind up in a fight. That isn’t the way things need to be. People wonder why the approval rating of Congress is so low. I don’t wonder. It seems that everything we’ve done this last year has been a knock-down, drag-out fight. There is no reason to do that.”
Now the problem is that this issue is not resolved. The problem is that all we have accomplished is a postponement. But that may just be the silver lining in this very dark cloud. Because we are postponing the argument into next year, next year during primary season when everyone is starting to pay attention. If Republicans and TEA Partiers start making the same sorts of noises they were making between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when most people aren’t paying attention, people are going to start to take notice.